Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Austin City Limits 2011

Summer coming to an end meant one thing to me, 3 letters that people in Austin say nonchalantly like they are reciting their ABC's: A.C.L. Despite the weather still feeling like the dead of summer, I had once again been anxiously awaiting for this week to get here. Of course, I bought my tickets before the line-up was released way back in May, and the chances of me missing Austin City Limits was as likely as rain was in the forecast the past 4 months since I had purchased the tickets... zero percent.

I started off ACL week with Deadmau5 at Austin Music Hall. Being one of the more entertaining acts at last year's festival, I thought catching him at his own show would be a cool way to kick off what I like to refer to as my fall break. We got to the show a little too early unfortunately, but did get to see Tommy Lee do a DJ set, yes that Tommy Lee, which was surprisingly entertaining. Dubstep DJ Excision came on next, and was also pretty legit if you are into that kind of thing. I can be when in the right mood, but unfortunately was not quite at that level on this given night. So once Deadmau5 finally hit the stage I'm sad to say I was pretty tired, and being surrounded by high school kids with glow sticks was just not cutting it for me. We stayed for about 45 minutes, got to see some incredible visuals from Deadmau5, and hear his infamous electronic beats. All in all I left feeling a little dejected, and a little worried about how I was going to survive the next few days of all out music.

The only official ACL Aftershow I bought tickets to in advance was for Pretty Lights with Nas and Run DMT at Austin Music Hall the night before the festival officially got under way. I knew a few different people going, so I showed up solo and just made my rounds. Run DMT were a pair of local Austin DJ's, and they got things going with some good jams. Nas came on next, and a little intoxicated due to his birthday being the night before, put on a surprisingly impressive set complete with some of his older classic hits. The place was getting live to "Hate Me Now" and the energy in the venue was contagious. The anticipation for Pretty Lights was palpable, and when he finally came on, the place exploded. Pretty Lights went on a little after 11pm, and didn't stop playing till after 2am. It was by far the most visually entertaining show I've ever been to, and he straight up rocked out. The most important element to me at a show is crowd involvement, and not a single person at AMH was standing still for nearly 3 hours. His set, set-list, and crowd involvement were all flawless. I walked away knowing there was no way any show I could see at ACL the next 3 days would come close to touching what I had just been a part of. Easily top 3 best shows I've ever seen, if not the best. Do yourself a favor, and catch his act if you ever get a chance. Seriously. Do it.

So on very little sleep, I awoke Friday feeling rejuvenated and back to being excited thanks to the show the night before. After the ritualistic Kerbey Lane brunch filled with homefries and mimosas, it was off to the festival early to get our money's worth. After dropping off some flyers downtown for my friends over at Tortoise & Blonde (http://www.tortoiseandblonde.com/), I made my walk over to Zilker Park. Along the way I started chatting with another guy making the pilgrimage wearing a Caribou shirt (one of the best concerts I went to in 2010), and after about 20 minutes of trading stories and laughs, came to find out his name was Jordan. Small world. Having already gotten my money's worth the night before, I more or less just tagged along with my friends to whatever show they wanted to see, and since none of Jordan's friends had made it down there yet, he ended joining as well. We started at Theophilus London, and during his set the unthinkable happened... it started raining. Granted it wasn't a downpour, more of a light drizzle, the crowd still went pretty wild none the less, so thankful for the cool off during the hot day and the much needed rain the entire area of south Texas so desperately needs. Then we hiked over to the other side of the park and caught some of Wild Beasts, and Brandi Carlisle, whose Johnny Cash cover had the crowd feeling like shooting a guy down in Reno. James Blake was interesting, but not really my cup of tea, and despite my eternal love for Ray LaMontagne I just simply was too far away, and too hot, to truly enjoy his set. I tried to get over to catch some of Foster the People's highly anticipated set, but was left feeling very disappointed both by the poor sound and the overall performance of the hipsterish band. Thankfully, Nas saved the day again when him and Damian Marley put on a killer set on the main stage in the heat of the late afternoon. Was so happy I got to see anyone with the last name Marley, especially from as close as I got. Once their set was over I had a decision to make, keep my spot close and get mobbed in with the thousands of people piling in for Kanye West, or bail and watch it from a distance and make it to my ride in a timely fashion. I made a game-time decision and pushed my way close, having already seen Coldplay before I knew this would probably be the only headliner I'd actually see at the festival this year. Waiting an hour stuffed between 50 thousand people is an interesting experience, and in no way is fun, and I was getting quite cynical towards the end as I sobered up and waited for Kanye to come out, because lets face it... Kanye is an ass hole. I fully expected him to come out late, half-ass his performance, and leave me feeling completely unjustified in my decision. Note to self: always underestimate performers. Kanye came out in the middle of the crowd on a huge lift, only 5 minutes late, and absolutely killed it. His first 5 or 6 songs were all jams, and the crowd involvement was off the charts. I completely took back all my bad mouthing of him and was left pumping my fist watching the throne. The only downside was having to snake my way out of all those people to make it back to my ride waiting for me near downtown. Apparently I made the right decision once I finally got out of there (alive, thankfully) as I heard his show ended up being best at the beginning and declining a little towards the end. I ended up literally tripping over a friend on my way out of the park, as ACL never ceases to bring all types of people together. All in all it was a successful first day, thanks mainly in part to Kanye's surprisingly dope performance.

A little tired after a long first day of drinking in the sun, I slept in, went to lunch with Lauren, and took my sweet time getting down to Zilker. I decided rather than trying to stage hop all over Zilker like I had the day before, I would be better off just posting up at one stage all day, sending out a mass text to anyone I knew at the festival as to where I was letting them know I'd be there all day, and just sit back and enjoy the experience. I picked the Google+ stage, where Alexander, Skrillex, and TV on the Radio would be playing on that day. I had bathrooms 10 yards to my left, a water filling station 20 yards behind me, a bar 10 yards past that, and a prime spot about 20 yards away from the stage. During Alexander, some friends met up with me, and we enjoyed sitting around listening to the melodic tones, drinking, and letting the light rain that had started up cool us off. Skrillex came on and we got a little closer and enjoyed a very entertaining and fun set, with the surprisingly large crowd completely into it as much as we were. Surrounded by good friends I rarely get to see, we danced and had a great time dubbin out to his jams. Once his set finished up, I pushed even closer to get a prime spot about 3 rows back for one of my girlfriend's favorite bands, TV on the Radio, so I could find out just why she likes them so much. I quickly found out, as they put on the most impressive set musically I saw all weekend. I also was about 10 feet away from Christian Bale standing on the side stage apparently filming a movie, so whenever one comes out in a few months that involves him being at a festival or something, look for me snapping photos in the background.

Sunday, after not exerting as much energy the day before, I woke up early ready to make the most of my last day at the festival. After a burger and some beers at Black Sheep Lodge, I headed back to Zilker with the same game plan as Saturday, post up at Google+ and enjoy not trying to deal with maneuvering through 75,000 people. Chiddy Bang kicked the day off, and they put on a surprisingly entertaining set, as I was not impressed the first time I had seen them a few months back. The white guy playing drums made a huge difference, as did having a large group of friends around me again versus essentially seeing them alone the first time, and we all danced and had a great time despite the killer heat. Elbow went on next, a band my sister introduced to me a long time ago and I have always enjoyed. We had a great spot close for this show, and they put on a very good show musically. Empire of the Sun was the last show of the night at this stage, and I was not at all prepared for their wild and crazy show. It was like a 1980's band meets an Andy Warhol painting, and I was happy to be so surprised by a show. Those crazy Aussies had the place rockin, and having already seen Arcade Fire earlier this year, I didn't mind only catching a few of their songs from their headliner performance from way in the back before saying so long to ACL 2011.

I took work off Monday, a lesson I learned the hard way last year, and was lucky enough to win free entry to an ACL (the PBS TV show) taping of the British band Gomez. I didn't know much about them save the one song I had on an ACL Sampler I had downloaded a few weeks back, but I was third row for their hour long show and they were very impressive. It was a nice intimate way to finish up another successful festival week. Ironically enough, I ended this past week the way I started ACL last year, by seeing Neon Indian. This time it was at Mohawk, and it was another great night.

Its times like these that make me thankful to be alive, to be living in the town that I do, and being able to have the means to do the things I want to do. I am so grateful to be at this place in my life, where I have amazing friends, a great supportive family, a beautiful and caring girlfriend, a job that allows me to live where I want to and support myself, and an attitude that has challenged me to open up and meet new people, try new things, experience new events, and become a person I am happy and proud to be. I can't wait to go back and read this posting, just like I read last years "Austin City Limits 2010" post when packing for this years festival, and relive all the incredible moments I was lucky enough to be apart of. To everyone who were a part of this years memories, thanks! I don't know that I will be going all 3 days to ACL again next year, but it is definitely an experience I will always cherish and remember.



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